Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Pocket Carry SAK Farmer Sheath

I have wanted to get a SAK Farmer now for a while.  Recently I was able to get one ordered with no real hardship or pain to my finanaces and I started to wonder about carry options.  I had heard some discussions about the value of having your absolute essentials attched to your person and I could see the sense in it.  I wondered what I could come up with for a carry option for the farmer and a firesteel that would do this and, after some fumbling around, this was the result.

I am not sure how many of you subscribe to IA Woodsman's youtube channel.  If you don't, you should.  Lots and lots of good info from a guy who knows his stuff.  Anyhow, he has some excellent videos about braiding, whipping ends, and firesteel lanyards and they really got me to thinking... 

I dug around a little and found a place called that sells 1/16", 100 lb test accessory cord and I ordered a spool or two for a couple of lanyards.  Next, I set about making a prototype leather sheath for the SAK itself until the cord arrvied.

I had a scrap chunk of 8 oz that I could work up nice and tight and wet form so I threw some stictching on it and soaked it.  It took about 20 minutes to get the SAk worked in and another 5 or so, pushing with some deer antler to form it all up. 

After the cord arrived, I braided two lanyards with braided eyes and fused up all of the loose ends with a match or two.

My initial thought was that I would have a braided line, looped through a hole on each end and whipped to make the loop.  (The acorns were more of an attempt to dress up the ugly thing but it failed...  :) I toyed with it some more and finally woud up at the four hole (and no more acorns) idea.

The braided line is worked around the holes, over and under, forming a linkage that will pull on the leather between the holes instead of expanding and eventually tearing out the outside holes.  (Shown here in completed form and admitedly, my stitching on this was more for function than looks...  )  Once whipped with some waxed thread, those things are not going anywhere.

Next I added a split rig to my firesteel and threaded ring onto the loop.  With the addition of an S-biener on the other end for looping around the belt, I got this...

I've been wearing it for about two weeks not and, thus far, everything is holing up well.  When I kneel the firesteel reaches the floor with slack to spare and the lanyard wraps around the sheath nicely when it goes back in my pocket.  Thus far, I am really pleased with it.  Hopefully, some day, I'll get back into the woods and get to test it on the real stuff rather than my fire pit in the back yeard...  Anyhow, thanks as always for reading.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Squirrel Hunting this Season

I didn't get to hunt much this year.  It just wasn't in the cards at all.  As we sit right now, I have one vacation day left and it will go for deer season.  I managed a few trips out but all in all, it was not a season to write home about.  I did get some nice pics though and I may have even bagged one or two along the way. 

I say it like I am complaining which doesn't seem right.  In the month of Thanksgiving I am thinking maybe I should appreciate and give thanks for what I have been given... that I had to so much time off and still got to hunt a few times in October...  It could be a lot worse.  That it's not like it was even just a few years ago doesn't matter except that my wife doesn't feel like a woods widow this year.  :)  I will get back to it next season.  My kiddos will be bigger and I will, hopefully, be more healthy and it will all fall into place... with a little bit of nudging.

Anyhow, have a look.  I have some photos from the season thus far.

Sunup over Tranquility WLA
My Squirrelling Rig, 2011
I do love big Oak trees
My rifle, my Jeans and a leaf of Autumn colors

One who did not get away...

Afternoon light in the maples.
When the new year cycles up and all of this is buried under snow and cold grey skies my vacation count recycles and I have time off again.  I am certain I'll be back out in these trees then once or twice more.  Then I'll go into hibernation and just work and mow grass until August rolls around and it's time once again to get ready.  Until then I'll just remember the warm days and the smell of the autumn woods and try to be grateful....  :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Rainy Bushcraft Lean To on Monday with Undercooked Bannock

I read an interview a while back Yvon Chouinard gave to Men's Journal magazine.  In it, he noted that in his experience one of the more important things you can do is to use your body every day.  Those words pretty well clicked with me so, today, rather than go hunting, I decided a day of bushcraft was in order...  specifically in construction.  One of the things I have wanted for a long time is a sort of permanent shelter on my favorite plot bushcraft friendly dirt.  So today, I decided this spot was the place.

I took down 5 good sized pines and set to it.  That little bit of sentence there is a ton of work.  All I had with me was my Wetterlings Bushcraft axe which is, in reality, just a hatchet with an extra inch on the handle.  Still, we got the job done.  The ridge pole was a pain.  I wanted to get a little slope to the east so wrestled that a bit.

Limbing off the other four turned out to not be so easy but in the end, it all lashed together without issue.  My plan from here was cross memebers and some thatching... then the rain kicked up.  :)

And so the lean to became a tarp frame.  It all worked pretty well and I stayed dry.  By the time it cleared off I was running out of time so...

I chilled out for a minute, took some pics, and started some lunch.  The view through the top was something very nice.  I smiled when I, for about 10 seconds, remembered my cube and then remembered I wasn't in it...  it was a good day.

I put this in here because I want to look at it later and remember chilling in the rain on my rescue blanket with a sweatshirt under my head.  The fire was hot as hell.  Good burning pine is hard to be for fast, hot stuff.

My try at planking bannock failed  It turns out that when the IA Woodsman is talking about getting it as thin as you can or it won't cook, he means the bread not the plank.  Sometimes I am just not firing on all cylinders.  Of course, it was still fun.  The SPAM did plank well, BTW.  SPAM still sucks though.  Not going to be a regular thing....

The sweat was real and the frame will still be there when I get back.  I an anxious to see how it does.  Good day, all around I'd say.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Squirrel Day #1, 2011 - The Great Wet Hunter...

It was a day of firsts for me this past week...  Most notably, I spent Tuesday morning under a tarp, hunting.  I have always avaoided the hunting in the rain.  It just never seemed worth it to me.  The I got one of these 5X7 taps from Etowah and I have to say, I won't avoid it nearly as much any more.  What a great morning.


The Marlin and the new gearslinger pack worked perfectly.  The rain and wind were no problem at all and both are no worse for wear after the fact.


I was set up on the north side of squirrel alley.  Pretty well had to concede the 100 degrees behind me I couldn't see through the covering but that didn't make it any less interesting.  By way of a story then, I went out a while back to get comfortable with the 980 and to make sure the sights were on and so on...  I pulled the scope off in frustration and went open sighted and had great luck.  With that experience firmly entrenched, I had it seems, forgotten why I went with a scope in the first place.  It turns out that in low light, I just can't see like I used to.  I had four shots before 9 AM and missed them all.  It's a sad day in my house.  I am old and out of practice.  :)

Anyhow, like I was saying, the rain was with me all morning and the sound of it on the tarp was just the really relaxing sort of thing guys like me need on a day off.... punctuated with sounds of close in gun fire...  :D  Once the rain moved on though, the wind started.  Once that happen, goodbye squirrels.  The acorn blow got blown out of the tree, still attached the branch.  It was just windy...  sunny too and that was good, but windy.


I circled back in midafternoon and  waited on my den trees in squirrel alley for an hour or so.  The tree rats were holed up and not moving, not that I blame them at all.


So I can pretty well sum up the day in this image.  Wet on wet, no squirrels, and wind blown....  Still though, beats doing actual work.  Always better than that.  ;)


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Making a new Bushcraft Knife

Note:  If you are looking for how-to / tutorial type posts for bushcraft knives, click here.

A while back, after the Thistle project was all done and I had learned what I set out to learn there, I started making notes about what I thought the next itteration of knife to come out of my shop should be.  I put together a list of my favorite things about the knives I have made and kept for my own and some of the ones I have done for others.  Finally, I also consulted Ray Mears writtings about his woodloore knife design.  After all of that, the knife on the bottom here popped out on paper.


After some more thinking and compairing my notes on different types of steel and what I should use to make this, I settled on 1/8" thick, 1 1/4" wide O1.  (I know.  It's a shock.  A knife maker using O1 steel...)
I set up a quick stencil and traced out my blade.  Being the excitable type, I went ahead and ground it out.  The profile made me pretty happy so, on we went....  :)

After some time in the grinding jig...


and then some more time....  :)


and a good bit of sanding... it was off to heat treat at Peters'.  We're shooting for 58/59 HRC.


After 10 painful days of waiting, it was back home and all hardened up.  Time to sand and scale...


Alpha knife supply has some awesome looking blackwood.  I had Chuck send me a bowie block, split into scales.  If you ever want some different looking wood that is tough as heckles, blackwood is for you.


I traced and cut them and then fused them on some 3/32" black G10...


and then it was glueup time. 


After 24 hours of vice time, I took the belt grinder and removed a bunch of material back to the slightly oversized shape I was looking for.


Sadly, just after I finished up with this and showered I started wheezing and had to set it down for a while.  The dustmask worked but the dust was too fine and there was too much of it.  Just a little made me all tight in the chest.  Once I get a cool day, I'll finish er up... outside.  :)

Thanks for lookin.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Maxpedition Noatak Gearslinger - First Impressions

About 20 months ago I wrenched up my back and since then, have been looking for something small and comfortable to carry my gear when I am out and about. I was hopeful I could find something that was well designed and built tough enough to last some years and some hunts into the future. The Noatak Gearslinger from Maxpedition appeared to be, on paper anyway, the ideal solition. Today, I got one out in the field for a few hours to give it a try.

Now first, I am not going to bore you with the specifics of the pack. You can read those here. I ordered mine on 3 days delivery, no muss, no fuss....

Secondly, you may notice that I decided to attach my Janus pocket on as a part of thos rig just because I have had such good luck with it in the past on other set ups. This was a mistake. :oops: Bad idea if you are ever actually going to use the 'Slinger' part of the design.


All that said, this is a nice looking rig in person. It's not very big but holds a surprising amount of stuff for a small pack.


For those of you actually trying to figure out what all of that is, let me list it out here, left to right & top to bottom:
* 2 Liter GI canteen
* 3 - 50 rnd boxes of Aguila 38 Gr SubSonic HP
* My SAK
* Reduced 550 Cordage Kit
* BC Outfitters 5 X 7 Multicam survival tarp.
* 32 Oz Nalgene bottle
* industrial sized can of OFF!
* Bunker firesteel
* Altoids tin of PJ Cotton
* Fork and Knife set from McDonald's (essential survivial gear)
* Chilli Mac MRE in the box
* Woodland Camo 5 X 7 survival tarp underneath all

It's snug, but it all fits....

I know it sounds a bit strange for a reviewer to do but I overloaded this on purpose. The 2L bottle full of water in the front pocket added a ton of pull on the strap. To the credit of its designers, the underarm strap was not uncomforatble and held the bag in place. The left shoulder strap worked as I had hoped and provided 0 interferance with the shouldering of my rifle. I think this may be an excellent rig for me for hunting. With just the normal stuff in the front pocket (compass, GPS, small FA kit, etc.), and with the second tarp removed from the center, this should provide more than ample storage for the day hunter who may also like to read a bushcraft forum now and then.... :D Or, if you happen to take a book along for the long hours of the afternoon between squirrells, this guy can handle it.


I have to give it a recommend with one caveat; If my back were in a spot where I could handle carrying a strongly side-weighted rig like a Versipack Jumbo all day long, up and down the hills and through the vallies of a long hike squirrel hunt, I would carry the Versipack Jumbo instead. Having said that, if the man-purse / messenger bag look is not for you, (or if your back makes people make funny faces when they look at X-Rays of it like mine does... :lol: ) then I would say take a look at the gearslinger series of packs. I liked this one quite a bit.... and remember, no Janus Pocket. ;)


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Initial Impressions - Bark River NorthStar & NorthStar Companion

Recently, I've been lucky enough to make some trades and sell a few things to finance a couple of additions to my collection of Barkies. Initially I had decided on a Northstar companion because it's idea size for packing in a small gear bag and, generally speaking, I really liked the look of it. My only concern was for the shape and size of the handle. This concern, it turns out, is a non-issue. The handle shape works well. (There is an adjustment in the contour I will make and I discuss that down the post a bit here...)

Second on my list was originally an Aurora. After some inspection of other options in the BRKT line I decided to go with the NorthStar just because I enjoy the looks quite a bit more and I had had such good luck with the companion knife. All in all, I have also found the Northstar model to be very enjoyable to use and look at and as far as cutting and durability, it is all I have come to expect from Bark River. While the Bravo1 remains one of the most durable feeling and probably overbuilt knives I have ever held, the Northstar brings an elegance in form and function not at all common in bush knives. It's a solid tool and worthy of use.

My only gripes with either of these knives, and each has the same two, can been seen in these photos. Firstly, the idea of a lanyard tube and these lanyard loops on the backs of the blades seems usually redundant. I am not in the habit of modding factory blades however these loops will come off next time I have the time to refinish then ends on these knives.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, the scales on each of these blades gets wider as you move further back on the handle. This coupled with the bird's head design on the pommel in both cases, causes a hand the size of mine to be uncomfortable in the pinkie grip. While I am removing the loops, I'll also adjust the scale contour. Probably not more than 1/16" change on either side but still, a needed adjustment.

Here they are after the first real day out in the field. They both make big chunks into small chunks and both feather and shave and scrape just as you would expect. All in all solid blades from BRKT... again. :) I will do a more formal review of these at some point however as initial impressions go, these are some very good tools for whatever job you may have to spring upon them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

iPhone Photo-play

So far, my new favorite electronic gizmo of all time is my iPhone. After my day out the other day, which I shot entirely with the camera on the iPhone, I decided to try some of the mobile editing software available. Photoshop for iPhone is just really solid. Check these out. 100% edited on the mobile. Enough raving. Just something fun for Friday night...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 20 - Three Fires Friday... The Thistle goes to the bush...

Well, yesterday was an exceptional day. The stars and events aligned in such a way as to allow me to take a day (a whole day...) in the bush, guilt free. I had the new blade out for her maiden voyage and I would say it went exactly as I had hoped it would. (This will be sort of a long post so if you are short on time, feel free to just read this picture captions...) My video camera has taken a powder so photos are all I have for a while...

It's been raining for about 40 days and 40 nights here in Ohio. Yesterday though... no rain. Everything was still plenty wet but the sun was out and life was good. I even took the long way to may woods in the morning. Just a gorgeous day...

All things being equal, the goal for the day was to get into the woods early and test the new blade's ability to handle some of the more demanding stuff I do with a knife. Admittedly, I am not a real abuser of blades so, for some, this will look like a walk in the park... Anyhow, onward. :)

The tools for the day then... my new blade, my firesteel, and some assorted stuff for after the tests.

For the first test, I tracked down a good pine tree and cut a bunch of dead branches into usable lengths with my hand saw. One I had the chunk I wanted to feather up, I cut into the dry heart of the branch and tried to make what I have seen called fine feathers. (Itty bitty little thin things. They curl like crazy.) Like I said, everything was still wet. The knife handled it very well...

(All of the prep for Fire #1... I was going for the twig method here because I wanted to get to fire #2 before the sun really had a chance to start to dry things much)

and the feathers lit right up.

Twigs on and burning...

and the desired end result for #1. I discovered a few times on this day that it is hard to overstate the importance of fire prep and here's the first example I found. Those larger twigs were soaked when they landed on that fire. Having enough smaller, dry stuff to get the started drying was key to making this work.

So, with what I would consider the easy test for a new blade out of the way, it was time to search around a bit and find some dead-standing hardwood. I was able to locate a small oak about 20' long that had not made it and was lucky enough to be able to get it down without an axe. Using some closely spaced trees, I broke it into these pieces.

At this point, most normal people (probably well before this for most normal people... :) ) would have grabbed the saw or hatchet to get things worked down some. I, however, was on a mission of knife abuse.

I was pleasantly surprised that it handled battoned crosscutting pretty well. I worked them down to breakable thickness in no time.

I was able to baton the resulting pieces without too much trouble at all. It handled the knots and the grain very well.

It produced a really nice pile of stuff. I split a bunch more of it down into smaller stuff and then, the true test...

heartwood feathers as fine as I could cut them. (no sharpening to this point...) I think it did pretty well. One a side note here, I now understand why guys make giant piles of these things to light a fire. Even though a golf ball sized pile will do it, the prep work for what happens once it goes has to be perfect if the fire starts this small. I will make more next time. ;)

Anyhow, they lit...

And the subsequent burning thing ensued. At this point I paused, did a little back flip, and just watched the fire go for a while. My real sense of accomplishment for the day? A one stick fire from hardwood and a knife that I made, making it happen.

Firesteel gunk on the blade is ugly. I had to hit those more than a few times to make them burn. The good news it, it wipes off....

So with all the stuff I set out to do for the day completed, I set off for my favorite hanging out spot on this place and made myself some lunch. Just to make it a full day, I brought along some brass wire to try out a few things. The pot hanger works, very well. You can just see the wire where it crosses the vegetation there.

Needless to say, this fire was not started the hard way. After working with scrapings all morning and fire prepping and so on, it was nice to just strike a match to the PJ soaked cotton and watch it go and wait on my coffee.

Special thanks to Bindlestich1 and IAWoodsman for all of the great vids and info around this stuff and answering my endless list of questions. If you have not had a chance to view them on youtube, take a moment and have a look... two guys with crazy skills and all the desire in the world to share them.

Thanks for reading.